Sue and Settle: Regulating Behind Closed Doors

Tuesday, October 11, 2016 - 3:30pm

What is Sue and Settle?

"Sue and Settle" refers to when a federal agency agrees to a settlement agreement, in a lawsuit from special interest groups, to create priorities and rules outside of the normal rulemaking process.  The agency intentionally relinquishes statutory discretion by committing to timelines and priorities that often realign agency duties.  These settlement agreements are negotiated behind closed doors with no participation from the public or affected parties.

As an example, between 2009 and 2012, EPA chose not to defend itself in over 60 lawsuits from special interest advocacy groups.  These cases resulted in settlement agreements and EPA publishing more than 100 new regulations - including the recent Clean Power Plan.

Recent Notices of Intent to Sue on EPA's Website

8/16/2016 CAA, Center for Biological Diversity and Center for Environmental Health
For failure to perform a mandatory duty with regard to PM2.5 to protect the state of Wisconsin.
8/3/2016 CAA, Citizens for Clean Air and Sierra Club
For failure to determine whether the Fairbanks North Star Borough non-attainment area has attained the 24-hour PM2.5 NAAQS and to publish notice of that finding in the Federal Register, in addition to potentially reclassification of the area as a “serious” non-attainment area “no later than 6 months following the attainment date.
7/21/2016 CAA, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Sierra Club and Environmental Integrity Project
For unreasonable delay in responding to petition requesting that EPA reconsider its final action on the startup and shutdown provisions from the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards.
7/21/2016 CWA, Municipality of San Juan
Notice of Intent to Sue for aerial spraying of pesticides in Puerto Rico to combat the Zika Virus.
For a full list of EPA's Notices of Intent to Sue, visit

What is New in Sue and Settle?

    September 2016

    See all -- Sue and Settle News Archive

    What are the Economic Implications of our Findings?

    Interactive List of All Sue & Settle Cases

    Also see this alternate table, which lists court cases resolved by agency action in response to legal challenges.

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